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New Art Club: This Is Now
Published on Sunday, 18 October 2009

I'm partially dreading, and partially can't wait, to write this review.  New Art Club come laden with accolades for their unique blend of dance and comedy, as well as their efforts beyond the stage: both Tom Roden and Pete Shenton are established figures in the dance world, and are renowned for their educational as well as their directorial work. However, beyond all of their achievements, they are two extremely silly and funny men, combining to great effect their inventive and ridiculous dance with - in this case - the music of the early 80s. This is Now is sweet, nostalgic and hilarious, and well worth seeing, if just for the ingenuity this duo display.

Dance is not necessarily something you would associate with comedy. The two seem almost mutually exclusive; as the stereotype goes, dance looks a little silly, but takes itself seriously. But New Art Club seem to embrace the inherent daftness of the art, and in doing so, make it just as intense and powerfully emotional as so-called "serious" dance. The premise of this particular collection of dances (and discussion thereof) is the original Now That’s What I Call Music!, resulting in an exploration of the concept "now" - as well as a trip down memory lane, deep into nostalgia.

Both dance and music are a combination of 80s classics, including the Safety Dance (Men Without Hats), and various pieces inspired by the original; Heaven 7’s Temptation stood out. All of the pieces are given nice twists: they include school memories from the audience, "terrorist" dances (it has to be seen to be believed) and a recreation of a dance of love to a school teacher. Each piece is random, bizarre and absolutely hilarious.

The show makes a pleasing and enjoyable whole. Sections lead into each other simply and easily, following the simple progression of tracks on Now That’s What I Call Music!, as well as frequent trips down memory lane. The humour is surprisingly gentle, with staccato moments during some of the more peculiar dance numbers that keep the tempo varied. Both Pete Shenton and Tom Roden are impressively multi-talented, and this odd union of dance and comedy is a joy to experience. The only criticism that can be levelled at this particular show is the end: it lolls a little as the nostalgia threatens to overwhelm the piece’s own energy, and could do with a final blast or dance to send it off in style. Other than that, the show is balanced and watchable.

One final note: New Art Club have variously been described as "Morecambe and Wise at Sadler's Wells" or "the Reeves and Mortimer of contemporary choreography", and I think this does them a great disservice. This is originality at its best - and should be appreciated as such, not compared to artists of the past. New Art Club are one of the most inventive groups I have had the pleasure to see in recent years, and deserve all the credit for their forays into this exciting new territory. Don't miss a chance to see their work: you will regret it if you do!

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2009.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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